How to combat modern slavery in warehouse distribution

The sheer length of supply chains within logistics and warehouse distribution makes the industry highly susceptible to modern slavery.

The sheer length of supply chains within logistics and warehouse distribution makes the industry one that is highly susceptible to cases of modern slavery.

A global issue, one that doesn’t discriminate between its victims, these industries need to first be aware of the problem and then work to eradicate it to the best of their abilities.

We know erasing modern slavery is by no means an overnight process, but through having the right resources, tools and know-how, organisations can continuously strive to minimise its impact.

Understanding the risks

First and foremost, it’s about knowing where your risks are. Industries where temporary labour is prevalent are inherently at risk. With long supply chains and transient work forces, those in the logistics industry need to be extra vigilant of malicious activity taking place.

Often, it’s not the suppliers themselves that are responsible for cases of forced labour, but rogue infiltrators that manage to penetrate operations and maintain control over certain workers.

The risks can lie just about anywhere along a lengthy supply chain and any individual can be responsible for exploiting others across an organisation and its operations. The risk of modern slavery in your organisation ultimately damages the livelihood of individuals and the reputation of your business.

Where to start with remediation?

You know you want to make a change within your business, so, what can you do to address these risks?

Risk assessment

Undertake regular risk assessments within your business and with your suppliers. This will help you understand where the risks are so that you can manage them more effectively.

Know your workforce

The issue of modern slavery revolves around the workforce. It’s your responsibility as a business to know where your workers are coming from and to perform all the appropriate identification checks. If you don’t, you increase the risk of having exploited workers in your operations.

Unseen Business can help you to strengthen your onboarding processes, and support you so you know the signs of worker exploitation and how workers who are being exploited may appear or behave.

Have guidelines in place

The logistics industry and warehouse distribution, involves working with many third parties. This can increase your risks. Make sure you have clear expectations and guidelines in place for any labour provider or third party to adhere to.

Know what to do

Is there someone in your business who is responsible for dealing with any reports of modern slavery?

Having an appropriate policy in place to make sure people know what to do if they are concerned about a situation or other workers is important. Worker exploitation and labour abuse are highly sensitive subjects. Workers need to know that they can confidently and confidentially discuss any concerns they may have with the right people, in a way that protects them and others.

If your business doesn’t have a strong reporting and escalation procedure, then your ability to know what is happening and how you can address concerns appropriately is limited.

Policies and practices

Making sure you have clear policies, practices and procedures for how you will mitigate risks and how you expect others to do the same is key. If your framework is weak, risks can increase.

Unseen Business can help you to strengthen your approach, put in place an effective strategy and review progress with you. Once we help you put the right policies and practices in place, then it’s a process of continuous improvement. A regular reviewal process can help to prevent risks emerging in the future.

Modern slavery support for warehouse distribution and logistics

Modern slavery and worker exploitation needs to be handled tactfully, sensitively and professionally. It’s a difficult subject, one that can be tough to approach and manage as a business.

The team at Unseen Business can help you to understand your risks, educate your business and workers and put in place strong approaches that help you to continuously improve.

We will support you to know more about what’s happening in your supply chains, create greater resiliency to modern slavery risks and ultimately protect workers from abuse.

We can help you remediate problems that have happened, and pave a better path for where you want to go.

Contact us today for a chat.

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Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.